RESIDENTS and politicians who thought they had won a campaign to stop the erection of a mobile phone mast have been left stunned after it was put up anyway, without their knowledge.

The O2 mast, in High Street, Canvey, was rejected by Castle Point Council’s planning committee last year after more than 600 residents signed a petition against it.

But a camouflaged mast has since gone up, with campaigners only now realising the mast was approved following a successful appeal to a Government planning inspectorate.

Cheryl Oldroyd, 34, of High Street, led the campaign against the mast.

She said she has been left bewildered, angry and upset after a phone call to the council confirmed rumours the mast was now in place.

She said: “We campaigned for so long and so hard against that mast, and we thought we had been successful.

“The councillors all listened to our protests and decided to reject the mast. Now I find out it has been built anyway.

“I am shocked and devastated.”

The mast was unanimously rejected by the 12-man planning committee last October, despite council officers recommending it should be approved.

Canvey councillor Ray Howard, who served on the committee, said they had considered both residents’ concerns about health problems and the practicality of the site when they made their decision.

He said: “It makes a mockery of the democratic process.

“It just goes to show, if big companies don’t like the decisions of local government, they can simply go further up the chain and get it reversed.

“I have every sympathy for the residents who campaigned against this mast.”

Castle Point MP Bob Spink said: “I think this decision is unfair. Big businesses are too powerful and the Government is clearly in collusion with them.

“We have to give communities more power to control development within their own community.”

James Stevenson, spokesman for O2, said the company had appealed the council’s decision because the mobile network coverage on Canvey was insufficient.